TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (Michael Bay). 165 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens June 27. See listing. Rating: N
At two hours and 45 minutes, Transformers: Age Of Extinction is the longest of Michael Bay's megabudget toy stories. Knowing that, I still went in hope that Bay would continue along the somewhat more coherent lines of the last one, Dark Of The Moon. I was maybe 10 minutes into it before those hopes were dashed. No, not dashed: pulverized.
Transformers: Age Of Extinction - hereafter referred to as Trans4merz, because that's about the level of literacy at which it operates - is a gargantuan screech of white noise and spinning metal. It exists because the first three made money and, while Paramount and Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg can claim that all movies exist to make money, I would make a different argument: just because you throw $165 million of digital effects at me, that doesn't mean you can call it a movie.
There is a semblance of plot. Set five years after the events of the last one, in which the noble Autobots beat up the evil Decepticons and level half of Chicago in the process, Trans4merz finds all alien robots in hiding. They're being hunted down by the CIA because some nefarious spook (Kelsey Grammer) has decided to sever our long-held alliance with the good ETs, treaties and the president's opinion be damned. (This is a franchise that respects the military a lot more than it respects the military's commander-in-chief.)
When a Texas widower (Mark Wahlberg) discovers Optimus Prime in hiding and the government comes to collect him, all hell breaks loose in the first of several epic action sequences that overwhelm the narrative and obliterate the senses. Like Dark Of The Moon, Age Of Extinction is designed for large-format 3D viewing - but where its predecessor found Bay gingerly exploring the limits of how fast he could cut and move his normally hyperactive camera in three dimensions, in this one he simply doesn't care if he disorients or nauseates his audience.
Indeed, Trans4merz is a movie made by someone who doesn't give a shit about anything at all - about visual coherence, about character development, about scale or logic or any of those piddly things that cinema requires in order to engage or entertain.
This is a movie that makes a point of actually telling the audience to go fuck itself if it's concerned about the body count. After killing thousands in Part Three, Bay positively glories in slow-motion maimings and explosions, scattering human bodies around like toy dolls while Autobots and Decepticons savage each other in luxurious detail.
Once again, Bay throws in a few comic performers to supply those little flashes of life that the leads cannot: this time it's T.J. Miller, Thomas Lennon and Stanley Tucci, who get to try wringing laughs out of their monosyllabic dialogue. Tucci comes off the best, because he always does. The man is a born survivor, and the fee he charged here will build him a lovely guest house someday.
Of Wahlberg and newcomers Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor, who play Wahlberg's teenage daughter and her slightly older boyfriend, I will say this: they know what to do with a green screen. And hopefully they, too, will build lovely guest houses, and never make another movie with Michael Bay.
Trans4merz also has robot dinosaurs. I really hate robot dinosaurs now.